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For more than a decade, Black Hills State University students have been using their spring breaks as an opportunity to engage in volunteer experiences that address social and environmental issues around the world.  

On March 6, a team of eight students and two advisors will travel to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala to volunteer with Sharing the Dream, a non-profit organization that promotes fair trade and community sustainability.  During their trip, the students will immerse themselves in the community helping artisans with beadwork/jewelry and pottery making, working with children and visiting with the elders.

“Growing up in the United States, we have so many opportunities that people from other countries could only dream of,” said Mary Mitchell, elementary education major from Eagle Butte. “I really want to take all of my good fortune and share it with other people. I think it will be a very humbling experience.”

Mitchell, who has never been out of the country, grew up on the Cheyenne River Reservation where few people leave and even fewer people travel internationally. “I think it is an opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve never been out of the country and what would be better than not only seeing the world but making a difference as well.”

Mitchell said she is excited about working with Sharing the Dream and having the opportunity to hear the life stories of the people living in Santiago Atitlan. “I hope to gain a broader perspective of the world and the different people in it.”

She also hopes to gain a better appreciation for life in the United States. “Every day I take the little things for granted, and I hope through this trip I will be humbled about what I am blessed with.”

The students have also been fundraising to help pay for their trip including selling BH Coupon Cards, 10 percent nights at local restaurants and selling Herberger’s Coupon Books that can be used at the Community Days Sale Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 1.

In addition to the spring break volunteer trip, the BHSU alternative spring break team works on community service projects year round donating time to local charities such as the Spearfish D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, the Humane Society and senior citizen centers.